Former Everlane Employees Call Out Alleged Racism and Toxic Culture in the Workplace - Fashionista

Former Everlane Employees Call Out Alleged Racism and Toxic Culture in the Workplace

"We... have witnessed and experienced anti-Black behavior, prejudice in advancement of Black and POC employees, bullying [and] racial and heteronormative supremacy."
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It's a season of reckoning for companies of all stripes, and fashion brands that have built a reputation on sustainability and ethics are no exception. 

Earlier in June, sustainability darling Reformation came under fire as claims of racism in the company went viral on social media. Now, fellow millennial-focused label Everlane is facing accusations of "anti-Black behavior" and a toxic work culture, leveled on Monday in a document released by a group of former employees who have dubbed themselves "the Ex-Wives Club." 

Entitled "Everlane's Convenient Transparency," the seven-page text describes negative experiences that former employees allege to have had at the brand, and outlines potential steps Everlane could take to begin on the path to making things right. The group that authored it is unrelated to, but notes that it is "in solidarity with," the group of former Everlane employees who claim they were unlawfully fired after they attempted to unionize in April.

"We... have witnessed and experienced anti-Black behavior, prejudice in advancement of Black and POC employees, bullying, racial and heteronormative supremacy, manipulation and the intimidation of employees who have attempted to address these issues," the Ex-Wives document reads. "Those who dare speak up about terrible management and frustrations with addressing issues like diversity and representation were subdued with excuses, questioned on their loyalty and fell victim to retaliation."

According to emails sent to Fashionista by an Ex-Wives Club representative who wished to remain anonymous, the document was originally crafted by 14 former employees, who worked at Everlane for periods of time ranging from "several months to several years." They bonded via a group chat that began a couple years ago, but the number of people stepping up to "speak truth to power" at other companies prompted the Ex-Wives to put over 30 hours of labor into crafting a document that could be shared directly with their former place of work.

A representative for the group says they were "emotionally, mentally, creatively and spiritually traumatized" by their tenure at Everlane and notes that the first call between the group was a teary one, as people shared their experiences. However, they also noted in the document itself that they "know Everlane is capable of caring thoughtfully." 

"This is not a personal vendetta — it's about making an impact on our greater society and environment," a representative for the Ex-Wives tells Fashionista. "We have a responsibility to ensure current and future employees within Everlane, and across the industry, do not face the same collective trauma, gaslighting and refusal to ethically engage in conversation with employees."

The document opens with a section contrasting Everlane's slogan of "radical transparency" with what former employees dub "convenient transparency," claiming that the brand's approach sheds light on only certain parts of the supply chain. It goes on to tell 13 different stories of experiences that former employees alleged they had at the company, from pay disparities between white men and queer women of color to executives describing Black models as "too edgy" for Everlane. 

In the final section, the document outlines steps that the brand could take to make things right, from hiring external sustainability experts in an effort to better avoid greenwashing to actively seeking out ways to retain Black, Indigenous and POC employees once they're hired. 

"The recommendations in the document are a starting point. Whole agencies are hired to do what we scratched the surface on," a representative for the Ex-Wives told Fashionista. "It's a holistic process that involves empowering internal employee resource groups to guide how the company moves forward as well, centers them in decision-making processes, and pays them for their extra labor."

Everlane responded on Tuesday with two slides in their Instagram story that didn't directly name the Ex-Wives Club, but referenced "former employees" and apologized for "not always living up to this standard" of a "diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace." The brand also provided Fashionista with the following statement in response to the document:

"This is the first we've heard of many of these allegations. We've taken them at face value and know how serious they are. We are committed to building a diverse, inclusive and equitable workplace where all employees are valued and heard. We have failed to ensure this was a reality for all and we apologize.

We believe that through transparency comes accountability, and in order to enact change we need to better understand the problem. We are hiring outside counsel to lead an independent investigation immediately in order to take a deeper look into our entire organization. We feel that an investigation that is independent of us is the best way to get to the source of these issues and truly create change.

No matter the result, we know that as a brand and company we have work to do. We are committed to holding ourselves accountable. We know we must do better.

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